School Redistricting, Growth – Big Issues.
On Tuesday evening, August 28, around 30 members of the Merriwether community and leaders over the county met at the Merriwether school to join in with a panel discussion that, according to Linda Anderson, who has been the leader of the group, to plan for development of the community. Already a core group has been meeting. They are hoping, according to Anderson, to file as a nonprofit group.
Linda Anderson introduced Michael Rosier, former editor and publisher of the Citizen News which folded in the spring, who moderated the event, calling on eight guest presenters and fielding questions from the floor.
The panel consisted of David Hughes, County Councilwoman Genia Blackwell, Council Chairman Dean Campbell, State Senator Shane Massey, Sheriff Adell Dobey, County Administrator Lynn Strom, consultant to the county Roger LeDuc, and Todd Glover city administrator of North Augusta.
Hughes told of cost-cutting ways to assess the community needs, have them analyzed, and then return the data to the group. Blackwell gave an overview of the Highway Overlay Development (HOD) Ordinance which changes the current zoning in their area (involves several roads, mainly Martintown Rd.) from residential-single dwelling houses to limited commercial. The purpose has to do with keeping the rural feel of the area as growth takes place. Ms. Blackwell stated that she wants input from the voters: if the community does not want it she noted that she would not support it.
Campbell gave a comparison of Edgefield County and Columbia County (Ga.) and the difference in their growth. Here the inference is that growth will be coming into the county.
Sen. Massey warned that there will be unwanted growth if the community is not prepared. Once the infrastructure is in place – necessary for growth – “expect massive growth.” He suggests open talks with North Augusta leaders. He thinks the county has failed in not providing recreational areas in Merriwether. He warned of a lack of unity. He stressed the need to unify for the good of the county. He also noted that redistricting for schools is underway; Merriwether is expected to get 2 board members.
The sheriff is pleased that the council approved 2 new deputy positions, but noted there is a need for more – a “number one need is manpower.”
Administrator Strom noted improvements on the Web site. She noted Sheriff’s mention of the need for manpower, and that the request comes every year, but the county is limited by funding. She also noted the county is looking at a longterm plan for a trail system.
Mr. LeDuc called attention to the 5-year plan for roads and bridges. He elaborated on the strict guidelines for development under the HOD ordinance – lighting, trees, and buffers being a part of the plan. Retail and professional offices are designated interests in the rezoning plan.
Glover is involved with North Augusta development and he noted that many of his calls from developers are about the hundreds of acres of land around exits 1 and 5. Developers are not interested in county lines or city limits; they expect an explosive growth at Exit 1 and continued growth at Exit 5. North Augusta is working on a traffic plan for Exit 1 to include signals. Of interest was the data that Exit 1 has 50,000 cars per day traffic count.
The questions that followed brought a response from Councilwoman Blackwell concerning safety issues with the traffic problems. She stated that turn-off lanes are proposed for high traffic areas.
The question of when the redistricting will be complete brought this answer from Sen. Massey: A special board meeting is coming up Sept. 18 when they are expecting a proposal from Columbia. Two public meetings will follow. The expected time for finishing is in December, for presentation to the legislature in January.
There was interest in a proposal of Sheriff working with an agreement with N.A. police to cover Merriwether in order for faster response times. The Sheriff noted there is a substation in Merriwether but no funding for manning it. Response time for calls in the Merriwether area would be cut by 10-15 minutes if they could man the station.
A question on the proposed re-zoning (ordinance coming up before Council soon), as to “who is last voice” on this, was answered by Ms. Blackwell who noted there would be no ballot vote, but County Council would call public hearings and then vote on it.
In answer to a question about statements that N. Augusta is becoming the largest municipality in Edgefield County was given by Glover in this way: “If people do not want to be in North Augusta, we are not going to take you against your will.”
By Advertiser Staff